RIM Earnings Call: That Wasn't So Good, Was It?

| About: BlackBerry Ltd. (BBRY)

Even though you have likely seen them already, let's go over the results from Research in Motion's (RIMM) Q1 2012 earnings report.

Period Estimates (EPS/Rev) Actual (EPS/Rev) Guidance
Q112 $1.32/$5.13B $1.33/$4.91B -----
Q212 $1.38/$5.44B ----- $0.75-1.05/$4.2-4.8B
FY12 $6.24 ----- $5.25-6.00*

*Company guides down FY2012 from earlier estimate of $7.50.

If you listened to RIMM's conference call yesterday afternoon, you found out that co-CEO Jim Balsillie thinks the company's forthcoming products are "exciting." Balsillie's superlatives aside, he instilled no confidence whatsoever in the future. Basillie and the rest of his management team did nothing but raise more question marks. In the face of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone and iPad, and Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android platform moving full steam ahead, the crux of what co-CEO Mike Lazaridis can tell us is "Why we do things we do might not be obvious from the outside," while detailing a strategic platform shift that was apparently delayed.

The problem with the delay is not only that it happened, but instead was the impact of the delay on current shareholders who were effectively left in the dark, and the idea that Balsillie and Lazaridis somehow expect the market to accept the hard reality that RIMM could not seamlessly move between platforms and product lines.

I realize the possibility exists that RIMM can turn the ship around. At day's end, there's a 50/50 chance. I guess if you drilled it down harder, you could come up with a different ratio in either direction, but ultimately any estimate is a best guess. And of course personal and professional bias clouds any prediction. If I had to place a wager, I would say that RIMM does not orchestrate a turnaround. It either fades to obscurity or gets bought out. It baffles me how anybody could place their confidence in this management team to get anything right going forward.

You cannot overstate the ineptness of what it's done. I called the company on its FY2012 guidance before any Wall Street analyst did. I'm on the record as saying it'll go down as the next Palm or Nortel Networks (OTC:NRTLQ). I beat practically everybody to the punch. But ultimately, I could care less about being "right" or "wrong." What I care about are the real people -- shareholders and RIMM employees -- who are being screwed.

On RIMM's Q4 2011 earnings call, the company stuck to its FY2012 prediction of EPS of $7.50. Given that report, it would not have been illogical for somebody to go long the stock on the basis of what management said, materially. Despite the obvious and widely-reported issues since that call, RIMM did not lower guidance until yesterday. It also missed on Q1 2012 revenue, guided down Q2 2012 EPS by about $0.43 (using the midpoint), guided down Q2 2012 revenues by nearly $1 billion (using the midpoint), and announced layoffs under the euphemistic moniker of a "cost optimization program."

Can anybody tell me, with a straight face, that RIMM did not see this coming between the Q4 2011 and Q1 2012 reports? If this is not a breach of the company's responsibility to its shareholders, I am not sure what is. Think about the real world consequences of RIMM's passive approach, until the last possible second, to FY2012 guidance.

Obviously, people will lose their jobs over this, but also because of the complete and utter mismangement of the business over the last several months. Shareholders who bought RIMM stock -- at somewhere in the neighborhood of $60 -- on the basis of what they heard on that Q4 2011 call now, potentially, hold a $30 stock. If you did not bite then, maybe you bit when RIMM got hit after lowering Q1 2012 guidance because it kept the $7.50 FY2012 estimate intact. At that point you would have gotten your value or bargain for $48 -- only to see it fall, potentially, to $30. If you decide to bank a long play on what the company had to say on yesterday's call, good luck.

Surely, an investor who got into one of the above-mentioned situations shares in some of the blame for getting burnt. And, no doubt, the same investors would have been wise to cut their losses. But, that's not the point. Because RIMM held fast on FY2012 guidance on the Q4 2011 call and when it lowered quarterly guidance in late April, you might have been encouraged by the seemingly bullish long-term outlook.

That sentiment could have not only prompted initial buys, but made shareholders sitting on unrealized losses take the opportunity to average down. Why wouldn't you have? RIMM management painted a picture of short-term pressure, a FY2012 story that was on track. Not until yesterday did it reveal that what it had been sticking with all along for the full year was nothing more than something south of a dream. And now we're supposed to believe it when it tells us it has full confidence that the long-term outlook -- which is now somewhere beyond FY2012, I guess -- looks promising? RIMM makes an ETF of Chinese reverse merger plays look like a flight to safety.

With the exception of doing whatever I can to ensure that RIMM management's incompetence gets highlighted as to save investors from further losses, I will take a break from writing about the company. If I decide to trade the stock, I will move in and out of puts. The P/E ratio could drop to 1.0 and I would still feel comfortable using puts, but with a bit more caution at such depressed levels.

I will take some advice from ardent RIMM longs as well. I will not compare RIMM to AAPL or GOOG anymore. After the way this company has performed for its shareholders and employees over the last few months, it does not deserve to be mentioned in the same breath with names of that stature.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.